Learn Dutch to secure a healthcare job in the Netherlands

Learn Dutch to secure a healthcare job in the Netherlands

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In this article, NedLes tells you what language level you need for your particular medical profession and how you can prove it so that you can work in the Netherlands.

If you want to work as a medical professional in the Netherlands, you need to be registered in the BIG-register (Beroepen in de Individuele Gezondheidszorg). This is a legal and public register for professions practising in individual healthcare.

Foreign diploma

If you have a foreign diploma in a healthcare profession and you want to work in the Netherlands, this diploma must be officially recognised. After that, you can start the registration process, where you also need to prove your Dutch language skills.

Dutch language requirements

All medical professionals who want to work in the Netherlands need to be able to speak Dutch, that’s clear. But there are different language requirements, depending on your profession:

  • B1: Required for MBO professions such as nursing and midwifery.
  • B2: Required for HBO professions such as physiotherapists, obstetricians, higher-level nurses, physician assistants and registered dental hygienists.
  • B2+: Required for academic-level professions such as doctors, psychologists, dentists and pharmacists.

Until mid-2023, all medical professionals had to take a specific exam to demonstrate their Dutch language skills: the so-called AKV-test. But this is no longer the case.

A language certificate at the required level (B1, B2 or B2+) is now enough to demonstrate your ability to communicate in Dutch with your future patients or clients. But be aware that you need to submit these certificates at the moment you apply for BIG registration. It is therefore important that you start learning Dutch in time and take a language test at the right level before you apply for BIG registration!

How to assess the B2+ level?

To prove their proficiency in Dutch at B1 or B2 level, students can take a series of four officially recognised exams called Staatsexamens NT2. For higher levels, such as B2+ or C1, this agency does not provide any exams. Instead, the B2+ exams are being offered by listed language schools - which you can find on the BIG-register website. 

How can these schools ensure that they test the B2+ level correctly? Annelies and Renske are teachers at a Dutch language school based in Amsterdam and they explain, “B2+ is a really high level. It is far above B2. That means that you should really feel at ease in Dutch, and that you would easily pass Staatsexamen NT2-2 (B2 level).”

At the B2+ level, you should be able to understand complex and abstract information, and you should be able to talk about it in a clear and well-structured way. You should be able to express yourself spontaneously, without making too many mistakes and ensuring people understand exactly what you mean. When assessing B1 and B2, there is no problem as these levels are quite easy to evaluate thanks to standardised and recognised exams. But there was no exam to demonstrate the far advanced level B2+ yet. Thus, several language institutes in the Netherlands have taken it upon themselves to develop suitable exams for this level.

The B2+ exam

Renske and Annelies advise anyone who plans to take the B2+ exam to take some of the practice exams for B2 on the official website of the Staatsexamen. You should be able to pass these exams within the available time without much difficulty, before you consider trying for the B2+ exam. Moreover, many schools offer courses towards C1, and following such a course can also be a good way to see where you stand and improve your Dutch further.

The B2+ exam may consist of different elements, depending on your language institute. For example, one exam may have multiple-choice reading exercises, multiple choice-listening exercises, a writing assignment and a presentation (the last two are based on a text or audio fragment). The fragments used in the exam can be about anything, but the exam makers try to use healthcare-related topics.

Student experiences

One student who took the B2+ exam is Nalan, a general doctor from Turkey. She wants to continue her studies in the Netherlands to become a psychiatrist. When she came to this country three years ago, her goal was clear: learning Dutch at the highest level. Thus, she took several courses and she also worked as a volunteer in a health organisation.

For Nalan, the presentation was the hardest part, “It's what I have been practising the most, by studying useful sentences and expanding my medical vocabulary.” Renske and Annelies agree with Nalan that the presentation task can be difficult. “It is not easy to present something to a small group, based on just a few notes! These presentation skills might need some extra training,” Renske says.

The same applies to the writing assignment. The text that is written by the students must be coherent and include the main points of the text or fragment that it is based on. This also demands focus as you will have to listen to a 15-minute audio fragment or read a long text while making notes at the same time.

Sign up for a B2+ exam

It is clear: the new B2+ exam is not an easy one to take. Feeling at ease in Dutch and being able to work in Dutch at the highest level is something that takes time and demands effort. However, it all serves one clear purpose: giving the best possible medical care to your patients and clients, in Dutch.

Are you a medical professional who has to prove their Dutch language level? Depending on your profession, you can follow a B1, B2 or C1 course at NedLes - new courses start almost every week. Visit the NedLes website for more information. 

Rebecca van Raamsdonk


Rebecca van Raamsdonk

Rebecca van Raamsdonk is a Dutch teacher at NedLes for advanced and upper-advanced Dutch learners. She used to live, work and study in Paris, but she is currently based in...

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